Employment soars to new all-time high

Ben Southwood
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EMPLOYMENT in the UK rose to an all-time high in the three months to August, data showed yesterday, while unemployment dived, continuing the buoyant – but puzzling – trend in the labour market.

Employment grew 212,000 compared to the previous three months to hit 29.6m, a new all-time high, data from the Office for National Statistics revealed, while unemployment dropped 50,000 to bring the rate down from 8.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent.

The rise in employment drove a further wedge between gloomy output figures and the buoyant labour market, an apparent contradiction that is perplexing analysts.

“The great employment mystery deepens,” said Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors. “The headline rate of unemployment, the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance and those economically inactive have all fallen, and yet an optimistic description of economic growth is that it’s pretty much flat.”

And it was not just headline rates that improved: men and women; part-time workers and full-time workers; staff and the self-employed all saw an improvement in overall employment, as did all age groups.

The wedge between public and private sector wages widened to £22 a week in August, the data also showed. Public sector wages grew three per cent compared to a year earlier, to hit £491 per week on average, whereas private sector wages rose just 2.3 per cent.